Kentucky fans following football recruiting need to get to know a new name: Ra’Shaad Samples. Of all the targets Kentucky is in on, Samples may very well be the most important. The receiver from Skyline High School in Dallas, TX has become one of the biggest names the Wildcats are after and offensive coordinator Neal Brown has become particularly enamored with him.
What you need to know about Samples:
He’s listed anywhere between 5’10 and 6’0 tall and can play as an outside or inside receiver. Samples is noted as having excellent speed and agility, a fiery attitude on the field, an a solid route runner. Most importantly, he excels at picking up yards after the catch and is extremely elusive to defenders. He can also catch the ball well in traffic, and has very good hands in general. He is rated as a four-star recruit by rivals, scout, espn, and the 24/7 network and is a consensus top 35 receiver nationally. Samples has been offered by Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State in the SEC to go along with offers from traditional powerhouses USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and every single member of the Big 12 conference. Samples is without a doubt, one of the top prospects on Kentucky’s board.
Why the Wildcats need Samples:
Kentucky’s recruiting of receivers over the past several years has been really awful. Continually missing on top targets has left the Cats with a string of players that were low rated and lightly recruited, converted from other positions, or complete busts. Sure Stevie Johnson was great, but he was a junior college player that didn’t blossom until his last season in Lexington. Kenaan Burton, LaRod King, and a string of other converted quarterbacks turned out well, but Gene McCaskill, E.J. Fields, Brian Adams, and many more never materialized from the switch to receiver. And Randall Cobb was an anomaly. He played quarterback as a freshman, but then played a myriad of roles for the Wildcats as a sophomore and junior. His abilities as a receiver in the NFL are impressive, but he’s hardly used in a the way he was in college. The former staff had mismanaged the receiver position so severely, that the team will lose FOUR seniors this season and will return a junior, a trio of redshirt- sophomores, and a pair of true sophomores and zero redshirt freshmen. Of the group, it is safe to say that none of them are proven. Junior Demarco Robinson did not catch a single touchdown pass last season, Sophomores A.J. Legree and Demarcus Sweat didn’t play much and neither topped 15 catches, Redshirt sophomore Bookie Cobbins never even saw the field, and fellow redshirt sophomore Rashaad Cunningham didn’t catch a single pass, playing primarily on special teams. Not exactly a group that inspires confidence. Collins had some moments last season, but the need for receivers has never been greater. Now consider that Neal Brown’s system puts a premium on the position and things are only amplified. Last season at Texas Tech, Brown had a whopping 19 receivers on the roster. The Kentucky roster will have just ten returning players at the position and that’s only if all the walk-ons come back, which you can never count on.
What Samples to Kentucky would mean:
The Wildcats need receiver help and Samples is ready to play now. He can be a 10-catch-a-game player as a true freshman in this offense, and that’s even if he doesn’t start from day one. That said, I dot see a scenario where Samples isn’t a day one starter for the Wildcats. Adding him to the fold would mean that Bookie Cobbins can continue to be developed as he translations from quarterback and Rashaad Cunningham won’t be rushed on the field as he refines his raw abilities and learns the receiver position. Demarco Robinson can play in one slot, Daryl Collins can man the other, and Sweat and Legree can line up on the outsides. Samples, in turn, would be able to play in any of the four spots and the staff could find ways to get him the ball in space. In the event that a player suffers a long-term injury, is academically ineligible, or just cannot perform, the Cats will still have a go-to player ready. With some questioning Cobbins’ and Sweat’s academics and Cunningham having played only special teams last season, Samples is a severe need.
What Kentucky could mean for Samples:
How many opportunities does a person have to really make an impact? Samples can do that at Kentucky from day one. We’re talking about an SEC team that is revamping the play book and roster and just hired two of the hottest defensive and offensive coordinators in the county. Neal Brown was being considered for head coaching jobs despite his young age, and chose to bring his high-octane passing attack back home to Kentucky instead. I starting Samples into that attack could potentially make him legendary. Some might even point to the quarterback controversy at UK right now as a reason for receivers to stay away, but think about it. Regardless of who wins, Kentucky’s receivers will be fetching passes from a battle tested leader that took lumps at LSU and Auburn as a true freshman, a parade All-American sophomore with SEC experience that’s tailor made for Brown’s system, or a battle tested dual-threat sophomore that can move around and give them time to get open and make a play. He’ll, even if Woulard signs and then wins the job, that means you’ve got four years with an Army All-American. There may have not been a better opportunity for a true freshman to come in to the SEC and have a major impact in the last 15 years.
Kentucky needs Samples, and the Wildcats need him badly. An instant impact player of his caliber doesn’t come around often, so the Wildcats really need to find a way to make him fall in love on his visit.
You can follow Ra’Shaad Samples on twitter: @10justscored